Now we’d been planning this WordPress thing for a while (I have the messages somewhere so I could show you) but it was today at Barnes & Noble where we said “You know what? Let’s just do it.”
I took this picture when we first sat down because I am social media trash and Snapchat NEEDED to know that we are at B&N, okay?
We brainstormed on titles (I kept coming up with terrible puns) until we finally just went with what we’ve been calling ourselves since the age of 10 when we wanted to start our own babysitting service: Jessie Squared.
I wanted to go with the superscript because I think it looks better aesthetically but Jessie ever so wisely pointed out “No one knows how to type that. I don’t know how to type that.” She was right, but I’m still going to pout about it.
But anyway, that’s not what this is about.
After we wrote up our first post, I left Jessie alone to type up her introduction: I wanted to kind of browse because it’s Barnes & Noble and I’m an English major. (I bought a Harry Potter pop figure and not a book but this isn’t about that.) While I was browsing, I overheard some of the employees talking. Well, it depends how you define ‘overheard’ and ‘talking’: they were yelling across the store, basically, for God and everyone to hear.
“Did you see what that gossip rag published? ‘Caitlyn Jenner first time mother at 61’ He already has seven kids!”
I winced at the ‘he’, but I wasn’t really expecting anything different. This was my home town, not the college area I currently live in: people are gonna be like this.
Whoever they were talking to yelled back. “The kids were under the old identity. He has a new one so it’s the first kid.”
This person sounded like they had a better idea of what the whole trans identity business was about. But still. ‘He’.
I kind of scurried away after that, not wanting to say anything but not wanting to listen to it. I did catch the one employee saying something like “I heard Chloe still calls him Bruce.” I’m not sure about the truth behind that statement but either way, I was not comforted.
I got back to our table to tell Jessie where she was finishing up her post. She shared my discomfort and disgust but we just collectively rolled our eyes. It’s just typical, you know?
It just seems so precious to me that here Jessie and I were, trying to start a conversation online about equality and respect, and at the same time we’re doing this there are these random proprietors disrespecting a public trans person’s pronouns. Super casually.
Should we have spoken up? Stuck up for Caitlyn? Tried to educate these people on gender identity and trans rights? They were Barnes & Noble employees; that meant they at least had to value knowledge enough to hear what we had to say, right?
Did saying nothing, letting it go, make us bad allies to the trans community?
I’m going to give us the benefit of the doubt and say no, we’re not bad allies. In public situations like this, when dealing with strangers, there are times when you say something and times where you can give it a pass and then rant about it later on the internet. For me, the times you say something is if you feel someone in the area is in danger of being harmed by this language, or if the language is deliberately malicious rather than casually ignorant.
Neither of those things seemed to be happening in this scenario. Yeah, they were using the wrong pronouns and being loud enough to be heard by maybe a couple dozen patrons, but no one seemed to be deliberately attacking Caitlyn. There was no defamation of the trans community in general. It was kinda sticky. And it was public. We stayed out of it.
Will there be any lasting damage from our silence? I don’t think so. If there’s a repeat of this kind of language at this B&N, maybe I’ll say something. But it’s like what Jessie told me in the car when we were lamenting how to deal with misogynists on Facebook: “You’ve gotta pick your battles.” We feel like we’ll make more of an impact spreading our message in a controlled environment, like this blog, than fighting strangers at a book store.
Were we wrong? Would you have done differently? Let us know! I want to know if anyone else has a story like this one and how you handled it. Thanks.